Econet subsidiary plans to lower prices with new southern African fibre network

22 Feb 2010

Liquid Telecom, a majority-owned subsidiary of Zimbabwean cellco Econet Wireless, has revealed ambitious plans for building an international and national fibre-optic transmission network. In an interview with BalancingAct, Liquid’s CEO Nic Rudnick listed the company’s aims. These include: building its own links to international submarine fibre-optic cables (with bandwidth allocations on SEACOM and EASSy systems pending); a 7,500km domestic fibre networks linking all major cities; an international fibre network linking to eight other countries (Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia in a first phase, and a proposed second phase reaching Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi); metro fibre networks in Harare and Bulawayo; and proposed metro networks in two other southern African countries. The network infrastructure is being built by Huawei Technologies of China. Rudnick indicated that most of the traffic on the network would be Econet’s initially, but that third-party traffic could account for the majority in due course. Econet Wireless set up Liquid Telecom in an attempt to achieve lower international transmission rates than those possible via third-party links to South Africa. The cellco’s development plans for Liquid, which currently operates via satellite bandwidth, were put on hold during Zimbabwe’s economic crash.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s internet subsidiary Ecoweb already operates a fibre-optic backbone covering Harare and Bulawayo, whilst the country’s incumbent PSTN operator TelOne is pursuing a project to build a nationwide high speed fibre network, but has faced obstacles raising the necessary funding. Meanwhile the commercial launch of the EASSy consortium international fibre system has suffered delays and is now expected to be operational in August 2010.